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Arch-Conservative U.S. Christians Help Uganda 'Kill-the-Gays' Bill Stay Alive

Uganda's anti-gay bill, which espouses the death penalty for homosexual acts, still lives -- with the help of the U.S. religious right.

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While FRC protests that it does not support the Uganda law, like other Christian right groups, such as TheCall, it surely gives comfort to those who do.

Last month, TheCall's Lou Engle, who led the charge for California's Proposition 8 (the ballot measure that overturned the sanctioning of same-sex marriage by the state supreme court), convened a revival rally in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, that featured proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Act calling for the bill's passage from the stage. The week before his Kampala appearance, Engle issued a statement saying he knew nothing of the Ugandan bill when he made the arrangements for the rally (this seems unlikely, given the high-profile news coverage the bill received in February), and went on to state:

Now recently, TheCall has been wrongfully marked and vilified as an organization promoting hatred and violence against homosexuals and as one that supports the Uganda bill as currently written. To the contrary, we have never made a private or a public statement of support for that bill. Though we honor the courage and stand with the stated purpose of the many Church leaders in Uganda who are seeking to protect the traditional and biblical family foundations of the nation, we have serious concerns with the bill as presently written, especially in terms of some of the harsh penalties for certain homosexual behaviors or offenses.

But, as reported by Michael Wilkerson for Religion Dispatches, Engle's appearance at the rally "was sandwiched between two speakers who openly supported the bill." Warming up the crowd for Engle's appearance was Julius Oyet of the New Apostolic Reformation movement (with which Sarah Palin is connected) who said, "We call on parliament not to debate Heaven. We call on them to pass the bill and say no to homosexuality.” Engle was immediately followed on the stage by James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity, who, according to Wilkerson, said, "The bill will be passed into law without any debate...We must tell the whole world that Uganda will not accept that nonsense that says homosexuality is a human right. It is an abomination."

Lou Engle has lately become one of the religious right's chief darlings, recently appearing at a conference devoted to diversity in the Christian right that took place at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (reported for AlterNet by Sarah Posner). In a December 2009 FRC "prayercast" designed to oppose health care reform, Engle appeared alongside Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and his close friend, Sen. Sam Brownback, a member of the Family.

In an episode titled "Intersections of Church and State," the PBS show "In the Life" (video at the end of this article) explores the Family's relationship to the driving forces behind Uganda's "kill-the-gays," interviewing with Jeff Sharlet, author of the book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power . In December 2009, Brownback told reporter Mike Stark that he didn't know enough about the Uganda bill's "specifics" to condemn it. (Other members of the Family, including Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, both R-Okla., as well as Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Ensign, R-Nev., eventually stepped forward to condemn the bill.)

On the eve of the National Prayer Breakfast, a annual event sponsored by the Family, at which President Obama was scheduled to speak, the issue became a point of contention between gay groups and the White House. AlterNet published an extensive interview with Sharlet just days ahead of Obama's appearance, in which he explained how the Family's influence in Uganda, where the dictator Yoweri Museveni is closely affiliated with the Family, is playing out in the country's religious culture: